Newport Jazz Fest Countdown: Tyshawn Sorey

Almost every Tyshawn Sorey show I’ve seen is emblazoned in my mind. The old Roulette in SoHo where he elicited a series of gasps with the way he messed with negative space. An incredible evening of “anything-goes” in a duet with Ben Gerstein at iBeam in Brooklyn. One of the most engaging piano trio gigs I’ve ever seen at the Vanguard…the list goes on. As a bandleader, the drummer makes his mark by fully trusting his conceptual gambits. Operating “in the moment” is one of jazz’s bedrock cliches, but Sorey does it as a matter of course and with so much sensitivity that even the smallest of gestures carries a wallop (check the range of his playing with Fieldwork above). A progressive composer whose sound sculptures actively employ silence and forthrightly mess with expected dynamics, you can feel the determination guiding the action in his Alloy trio. Its pianist Corey Smythe boasts a temperament that always brings patience to the foreground. Playing Sorey’s pieces on Alloy (Pi Recordings), he revels in every aspect of a decaying note. “A Love Song” spends much of its 30 minutes ruminating on the pull of aura – modern classical as filtered through the prism of someone who appreciates the AACM’s spin on pure sound. It might be hard to absorb the group’s full impact from an outdoor stage – introspection seems to be its essence and festival shows usually rely on gregariousness. Sorey’s courageous gambits just might be the Newport concert that makes some listeners scratch their heads, but rest assured: the drama is substantial and the emotions are volatile.


Newport Jazz Fest 2016


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